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A safe and healthy workplace

Regardless of whether you work at a desk or in a lab, all workplaces have their risks. As your employer, the University aims to create a healthy workplace and to limit possible health risks. Here you will find the main risks and measures that we take to reduce them.

Desk work and arm, neck and shoulder pain

If you spend long periods working at a computer, you can develop physical symptoms. These symptoms, which used to be known as RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), are now termed CANS (Complaints of Arm, Neck and Shoulder). They can develop in your muscles, tendons and nerves in your neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Five factors play a role in the development of such symptoms: workspace, working hours, tasks, workload and posture.

Read our information sheet on Preventing CANS/RSI to find out how to prevent or treat the symptoms, or read the Working Conditions Catalogue on CANS by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). This contains a wealth of information on prevention alongside presentations, leaflets and tools to help assess the risks. You can also watch a short film on how to adjust your workspace.

Physical strain

If you regularly lift or handle heavy objects or lift or handle objects incorrectly, or if you stand or walk a lot for your work, you risk developing health problems such as back strain. It is therefore wise to be sensible about physical exertion and to limit it as much as possible.

To find out how to prevent physical complaints, read our leaflet on Things to bear in mind when lifting and carrying Aandachtspunten tillen en dragen.

Allergies

At work, you may be exposed to substances that cause an allergic reaction such as a skin, nose, eye or lung irritation. Allergies to latex and test animals are particularly common: latex allergies in staff who often come into contact with rubber products and animal allergies in staff who work with test animals. Read about these allergies and what you can do to prevent them in the brochures Latex allergy and Test animals allergy.

Legionnaires’ disease

You can contract Legionnaires’ disease if you breathe in the Legionella bacteria. Legionella can be found in such places as showers, sprinklers and fire hoses.

To reduce the risk of Legionella, the Real Estate Directorate regularly inspects potential sources of exposure, such as misting systems in the Hortus Botanicus, the showers in Plexus and the USC and the cooling towers at the Sylvius Laboratory and KOG building.

If your department or unit uses fire hoses, emergency showers or eyewash stations, notify your safety officer. He or she will help you implement measures to prevent the Legionella bacteria and infection.

More information

If you have any questions about symptoms caused by desk work or about adjustments needed to your workspace, please contact your safety officer. For more information on allergies, contact Paulien Oosterveld (tel. 3089). Notify your manager if you think you suffer from an allergy.

How is Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) arranged here?

Who is responsible for your safety and who should you ask when you have questions about health, safety and the environment within the Faculty of Science? You can read it all in AMD Information Sheet A010 OSH organization.

Different workplaces have different associated risks

Almost everybody works behind a computer screen. At a university, developping complaints of arms, neck and/or shoulders (CANS) is one of the most important and most underestimated risks. CANS was formerly referred to as RSI, repetitive strain injury. How you can prevent CANS/RSI, is in AMD information sheet A021. CANS is not only a risk factor in the office, but also in the laboratory. Read RhL030 RSI and ergonomics in the lab.

Many employees do also work in a lab. A warehouse is also a workplace and support staff and third parties may work anywhere in the buildings. Your workplace can also be outside the university's premises: at home, in the field, or during a trip or internship abroad. You can read more information about all these workplaces in AMD information sheet A020 My workplace.

Depending on your activies, at your workplace you may be exposed to several types of risks. Some activities are subject to regulations or permits. Your physical and mental fitness may also affect the way in which the work has to be arranged. Think of pregnant women who work with chemicals or ionising radiation, pacemaker wearers and magnetic fields or of medication that reduce alertness. Please read AMD information sheet A030 What to report?

At the workplace, risks and rules are communicated with signs that you can find in AMD information sheet A022 Safety signs.

Explore your workplace

Safety at your workplace does not only depend on your own activities, but also on the risks in the rest of the building. Please be aware of your environment and explore your escape route: how to find the nearest emergency exit upon alarm? Where is the nearest fire extinguisher and first aid kit?
In a laboratory it is also wise to know your route (blind!) to the emergency shower and at which sink you can find an eye wash bottle. More info can be found on the page about Evacuation.

When your office is near laboratories, or when you just sometimes need to be in a laboratory for your work, it is useful to know what signs and symbols on the lab doors mean. This information can be read in AMD information sheet A050 Betreden van labs: werken in een laboratoriumomgeving (Dutch only).

Training and instructions

It is important that, before you start, you receive proper instruction about the risks in your workplace. In this way, mistakes and incidents can be prevented. Instruction will mainly occur at your specific workplace, however some instructions are given by or arranged via the AMD:

Instruction and fire exinguisher training for new employees

The fcaulty organises a monthly introduction meeting for new employees in which a general safety instruction for everyone is embedded, and a separate laboratory safety instruction. New employees receive an invitation from the faculty board by e-mail.

A couple of times a year, the AMD organises a fire extinguisher training for employees who have never put out a fire before. In order to be able to register for this event, the faculty board also sends an e-mail, but you can also look at the Events page for data and application. Search for "fire extinguisher training".

Working with GMO’s and biological safety

New employees, guests and students who are going to work withh GMO themselves or who will work in a GMO classified lab have to register with the biological safety officer (BSO). They need to follow the GMO instruction (in English). Without having followed this instruction, you cannot work in a GMO lab or with GMO's.

Working with radioactive substances or radiation equipment

Before working with these, you should follow an external course (called "5B" course) and pass the exam. Please report to the AMD when you want to work with radiation.

Working with hydrogen fluoride (HF)

It isn't the acid part that does the harm, HF is in fact a nerve poison! You may NEVER work with HF without the special anti-HF kit (with antidote) at hand! Please contact the AMD for a kit and the HF-instruction before you start working with HF. The AMD can also organise a goup HF training if necessary.

Working with lasers

Before you are allowed to start working in a class 3 or 4 laser lab, you should do the e-learning laser safety (in English) and pass the test. Registration for the e-learning laser worker is possible via the form.

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